We sat down with Redd Walitzki to discuss her upcoming solo exhibition at the gallery, Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not), opening on December 14th. We were able to chat about her inspirations for her debut show, her unique painting process, and of course, glitter! .
ME: What was your inspiration for this show and how did you select your subject matter?
RW: The inspiration for "Vergissmeinnicht" (Forget Me Not) came from several directions. My starting point was reading Mark Z. Danielewski's beautiful novella "Only Revolutions" which explores the natural cycle of decay and rebirth by following a tumultuous pair of eternally sixteen-year old Romeo & Juliet-like lovers. In the story she is described through flora and he is described through fauna, making pairs of plants and animals. I loved some of the imagery his poetry suggested, and it was a great jumping off point. I was also thinking about the nostalgia that comes from leaving something behind, and many of the sirens in this show share that longing feeling.
ME: There are a lot of flowers and winged creatures in your new pieces. What is the significance of those in your work? Is there any underlying symbolism there?
RW: Initially I was working with the flora and fauna pairs from "Only Revolutions," like licorice and lilacs and field crickets. But then creatures common to German folklore (like the Rotkelchen/European Robin) found their way into the work as well. In general I'm drawn to things that are beautiful, but not in a standard way. There is so much amazing variety in the natural world to be inspired by. ME: The title of the show, Vergissmeinnicht nods to your German roots. You recently became U.S. citzen, has this changed your identity or worldview in any way?
RW: Becoming a US Citizen after so many years really made me think about my roots, and what I am leaving behind and gaining. Growing up I always felt like I was from in-between both worlds, not fully of one or the other, but sort of an outsider in both. I'll never forget the part of me that grew up in the wild Bavarian woods, but I'm also a very different person now for having left. Some of that definitely influenced the feeling of these works.ME: Vergissmeinnicht is in part inspired by fairy tales. What was your favorite childhood fairy tale?
RW: As a little kid I really loved the Hans Christian Andersen version of The Little Mermaid - its much sadder than the Disney version, but also more beautiful. I've also always been really drawn to The Snow Queen, especially since it has such a fantastic strong female protagonist, up against a seductive villainess. Stories with complicated girls really intrigue me. But what I love about many of the older fairytales is that they are so visually interesting and slightly strange and inexplicable. Many of them have really dark or ambiguous lessons too which is great.
ME: What is your art process?
RW: My working process is pretty complex - sometimes I feel like a mad scientist when I'm working. Initially I think of the colors/mood and general theme I want the final image to have. Then I stage a photoshoot with my model and settle on an image with the right feeling and composition. I do a watercolor painting of the photo reference, focusing more on establishing the general color palette and creating interesting paint moments (salt, drips, etc.) Next I scan the watercolor, transfer it to rice paper, mount that to panel. Then I design the laser cut frame to match the image and cut the panel. Finally come the oil glazes, where I polish up the details, blend the skintones, and pull everything together. Its pretty involved, but gives me the freedom to use my favorite aspects of each medium. Watercolor is my first love, and I'm so comfortable with it that I can be really playful and free while painting. But there is a finish to oil-paint that I adore, and the colors are rich and vibrant. ME: The subjects of your paintings are so beautifully depicted they almost come across as muses. Are you often inspired by your models? What is your selection process?
RW: My models are definitely muses to me - each of them brings something unexpected to the process, which is really great. There's not really a selection process, many of them are my friends, or I find them through other artists and photographers. I like painting really high-fashion looking delicate features, but distinct looking faces are always more interesting to me than just cookie cutter pretty ones. Its really important that they have an intense energy, and can get on my strange ethereal wavelength. Several of the pieces in this show feature Meredith Adelaide, who is a fantastic model as well as a great singer (currently playing with the Alialujah Choir). I think most of my models have another creative passion like that, which gives them something soulful to draw from while posing. My sister & constant muse Roxanna Walitzki is an incredible opera singer as well as having a very distinct style. But I'm not interested in straight portraiture, I like to transform my subjects into otherworldy figures.
ME: What artists inspire you (alive or dead)?
RW: My biggest heroes are Alexander McQueen and James Jean. I think both changed the sphere they work in through their unique voice & vision. Seeing the McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit at the MET was really life changing for me. It was incredible to me that one person could do so much, and explore so many subjects in their work while retaining a unified voice. Couture fashion is a huge inspiration for me in general. I'd love it if my work translated some of the beauty of that world into the fine art realm.
ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not painting / making art?
RW: Well, this year I've been painting almost non-stop, its been crazy! I also work at Bellevue Fine Art a few days a week scanning and printing artwork, which is really inspiring cause I get to see a really wide variety of artwork. That's taught me a lot about where I want to go with my own art. What I love about Seattle is that there are so many artists here, often when I'm not working I'm hanging out with other artists and sharing ideas & inspirations. We do things like meet for gallery field trips and brunch. Other than that, I love any excuse to get dressed up crazy and put on glitter.
Vergissmeinnicht opens December 14, 2013 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco.